In an unprecedented research, an international team of scientists has been digging deep beneath the Dead Sea to collect a record of climate change and earthquake history stretching back half a million years.
Under this unique project, led by Prof Zvi Ben-Avraham of Tel Aviv University's (TAU) Minerva Dead Sea Research Center, the team will dig deep beneath the Dead Sea, 500 meters down under 300 meters of water. At 423 meters below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth which attracts millions of tourists from around the world to enjoy its legendary healing properties.
"The study aims to get a complete record in unprecedented resolution -- at one year intervals -- of the last five hundred thousand years," said Prof Ben-Avraham. Looking at the core sample to be dug about five miles offshore near Ein Gedi, the researchers hope to pinpoint particular years in Earth history to discover the planet's condition. They will be able to see what the climate was like 365,250 years ago, for instance, or determine the year of a catastrophic earthquake, a TAU release said, describing the 40 day project as the largest ever Earth sciences study of its kind in Israel.
The evidence, according to the university, will help the world's climatologists calibrate what they know about climate change from other geological samples and may lead to better predictions of what's in store for Middle East weather.
For example, it would reveal whether the present dry and hot periods in the region are something new or are they part of some larger cyclical pattern? What they find should also shed light on earthquake patterns; important information for Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians who live on or around the fault line that passes through the Dead Sea region, said the release.
"The sediments provide an 'archive' of the environmental conditions that existed in the area in its geological past," Prof Ben-Avraham was quoted as saying.
While the samples being collected are not as deep as oil explorers drill to look for oil, the core will be something special: it will be kept in an unbroken piece so that records can be traced more accurately, the researchers said. The study is being supported by the Israel Sciences Academy and includes dozens of scientists from America, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Japan and Israel.
Scientists from Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are also cooperating in this unique event. The researchers come from a variety of disciplines, from environmental science to chemistry and each will get different parts of the core to analyse.